Proposal for a new EU development framework: decent work recognised as a cornerstone of sustainable development

Trade unions welcome that decent work is recognised as a way to achieve sustainable development throughout the EC proposal for a new European Consensus on Development, published on 22 November. Nonetheless, trade unions demand the mainstreaming of social dialogue in EU development policy, to make business accountable and ensure it contributes to development results.

BRUSSELS, 25 November 2016 - The European Commission unveiled on 22 November 2016 its proposals for a renewed European Consensus on Development and for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through EU internal and external policies. The goal is to adapt EU development policy to the commitments and milestones of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Trade Union Development Cooperation Network (TUDCN) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) welcome that decent work is recognised throughout the EC proposal as a way to achieve sustainable development. Decent work and social protection are acknowledged as tools for lifting workers and their families out of poverty and enjoy a dignified livelihood. The EC also values the existence of an enabling environment for trade unions and civil society organisations to operate freely, allowing for freedom of association and collective bargaining, basic elements of decent work creation.

Decent work is also praised for reducing inequalities, and as a way to address root causes of (forced) migration, conflict and instability. Trade unions are recognised as partners that promote responsible, sustainable and effective approaches to sustainable development, and strong partnerships with trade unions and employers are proposed for a successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The proposal also calls for a continued support of responsible business practices and responsible management of supply chains, integrating labour rights, the UN guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, labour standards and the work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Moreover, it supports the transition from the informal to the formal economy. The EC also calls for the new Consensus to apply the key principles of development effectiveness to all forms of development cooperation, including private sector activities.

Trade unions however regret that social dialogue (all types of negotiation, consultation between, or among, governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy) is not specifically included in the proposal, although it was mentioned in the 2006 Consensus. The 2030 Agenda advocates for an inclusive and democratic sustainable development. Social dialogue ensures that social partners (employers’ and trade unions) take part in the design of policies necessary to achieve sustainable growth with decent work.

Considering that the new Consensus proposal champions the role of private sector as “an engine of long-term sustainable development”, trade unions demand the mainstreaming of social dialogue in EU development policy, to make business accountable and ensure it contributes to development results.

Social dialogue is amongst the political priorities of the Juncker Commission, as materialised in the Quadripartite Statement on “A new start for social dialogue”, signed by the European Commission, the Council of the EU and European social partners. The EU should promote a similar approach in its external policies and instruments, making social dialogue a priority of EU development policy and thus promoting it as a means of implementation of the SDGs.

In the wake of shrinking official development assistance (ODA), the EC enshrines the blending of public grants and loans, to leverage private finance in development projects. Trade unions are sceptical about blending and public-private partnerships in developing countries. Evidence-based research shows serious concerns in terms of accountability, ownership, and development results of this development finance modalities. Moreover, ODA should primarily be used for poverty eradication and to reduce inequalities, and not to contain migration flows or to finance security and defence projects.

Trade unions will advocate for a labour-friendly renewed EU Consensus on Development, that promotes decent work and social dialogue as a means of implementation of the SDGs, and for increased responsibility and accountability for the private sector, matching the prominent role it has in global development. Trade unions will also advocate for consistency between the new Consensus and the EU Global Strategy with the 2030 Agenda, and between development policy and internal and external policies of the EU, in the spirit of policy coherence.

Read the trade union position on a new European Consensus on Development.

For inquiries, contact Joan Lanfranco, TUDCN-ITUC Advocacy Officer, [email protected].